Realistic language, WTF?

Tonight on Front Row tonight they were discussing the challenges of keeping the dialogue of teenagers authentic with writer of E4’s Youngers Levi David Addai and star Calvin Demba, along with reflections from Val McDermid, Phil Redmond and Joss Whedon on how they’ve tried to make their teen characters ring true.

I always remember an interview in the Radio Times with Steven Moffatt (long before Doctor Who) about how he wrote Press Gang. He said, on the subject of naturalistic young dialogue that he couldn’t, not at 5.05pm on a Wednesday afternoon. Truly naturalistic dialogue would be to have a f-word a minute, and swear words peppered like punctuation. I was reminded of this only a few weeks ago as I found myself sat diagonally opposite by some college kids on the bus home. They were, if you listened – and their voices were loud enough that you couldn’t not – talking quite intelligently and profoundly but it was peppered like machine-gun fire with f-words.

The solution that Moffat found was to layer the dialogue with linguistic tricks and to write the kind of dialogue that 16-words would want to, and aspire to speak. Redmond and Whedon were saying something similar.

I agree with this stance. Truly naturalistic dialogue of whatever kind may be authentic, but it can be almost unreadable and can date very, very quickly. better i think to hint at a relaxed way of speech and allow the reader or the actor to bring their own interpretation.